In the first post, I defined meditation and talked about many benefits and research. In this post and the next, I will describe different paths you can take to reap the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Here my focus is on helping you with “easy” programs to get you started or advance your practice.
Let me start by saying that I admit – I am a lazy meditator – and this wound up working out to my benefit. I discovered some short cuts which I share with you. For example, I discovered that sleep time is an excellent time to help develop some of these skills.
I encourage you to explore and play with what feels right and good for you. Sadly, there can be a lot of shame, guilt and “shoulds” associated with this practice. There is no “one way” or “right way” – only “your way” that works for you. And, as you develop over time it is very likely that your practice will change to meet your changing needs so I encourage you to stay open to that, too.
A reminder: here is the definition that I offer and what shapes the selection of these resources:
A state of being where your mind is simultaneously focused and expansive
Here I share resources in three main topic areas: mindfulness practices, brainwave entrainment and meditation practices. This is a tiny fraction of forms of practice and resources available. Read through and notice what captures your interest.
What I love about mindfulness and meditation is that it is a way for you to come home to yourself. So many times, we are living our life “out there” in the world, engaging with others and things; we can forget that we have a body below our neck that does more than carry our heads around and exercise.
Remember this: The body always knows. Mindfulness practices are great for experiencing and exploring the wisdom of our body and I briefly mentioned it in the last post. Here are some additional suggestions:
- Create a Pleasurable Experience – when you do these activities, pay attention to your environment. If you are doing a quiet activity, select a place that is special for you. Create a special corner in a room; find a place in a local park which appeals to you. Use candles, music, essential oils, incense, bring a beloved pet into your space with you. Make it yours, and something you enjoy. You will be more motivated to keep going. This is delightful self care that you deserve.
- Body Scan – this is as simple as it sounds. Start with a single point on your body (such as your head or feet) and work your way through your body, deeply sensing each body part. For example, feel your toes, then your feet, ankles, shins/calves, thighs, hips, etc. Enjoy sensing each part. If you have an illness or injury, this would be especially good to get in deeper touch with your body. The body follows the mind, and in many cases (especially illness) we often subliminally think the body has “betrayed” us, when in fact, the body is giving us important clues and messages about our health and mental state.
- Walking – this can be as simple as walking and mindfully taking in information through yoursenses. Notice everything around you and notice the sensations in your body. A more disciplined form of this is to breathe in with one step, and breathe out with the next (or extend it if it is too challenging). Another interesting alternative is to walk a Labyrinth. These mindfulness exercises can help you connect with the energy of the earth and your surroundings like trees, plants, water, etc. It is said that the earth resonates with the frequency of 7.83 Hz (in the alpha brainwave range) and can be very healing.
- Breath – focusing on your breath can be a simple mindfulness activity, it costs nothing and is always with you. Simply breathe in and out with a 4 count (count to 4 on the inhale, count to 4 on the exhale). This can calm your mind and body very quickly, especially during times of stress.
- Hearthmath Exercises – I mentioned this in the last post and will include it here again under mindfulness. This is as simple as breathing through your heart. (See www.heartmath.org for more detailed instruction). They have conducted research for several decades and documented that bringing the heart and mind into coherence has numerous benefits – physical, mental and emotional. They also have some tools and products to provide you with biofeedback to learn this precisely. I have used these tools for many years and highly recommend them.
- Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong – these forms of activity vary widely for all ages and levels. You can attend local classes, use online videos and other formats to get you started. If you would like to maximize your benefit, it is best to find an instructor that can help you. These programs have been life changing for many, and they help you with deep body awareness, flexibility, strength and many other benefits.
- MBSR – if you want a structured program, check out Palouse Mindfulness. This a free online version of the same Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as developed by Jon Kaba-Zinn and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. MBSR is a blend of meditation, body awareness and yoga. You can learn to cope with everyday challenges with more ease and grace, and learn to be fully present and feel alive.
The above exercises alone are a great place to start. The secret to why they work so well is not only in the body but also in the brainwave states. Our brains are constantly shifting gears throughout the day and night. Understanding these brainwave states can greatly assist you in fine tuning your program. Here is a summary of the different brainwave states:   
Programs for Brainwave States
For many years, I used the Neuroprogrammer program to create brainwave frequency recordings for personal use. Why? Using these sound frequencies – often in the form of binaural beats – can entrain (synchronize) the brain to these different states. We have a mixture of several states but there is one state in our brain that is most predominant at any time. I used the alpha and theta programs to help me “retrain” my high beta / monkey mind state.
Later I found two programs and have used both of these extensively:
- Banzi Labs – has several excellent brainwave entrainment apps for various situations that use binaural beats to stimulate the brain. The brainwave entrainment app has many options for sound, adding your own music and setting timers. What I like about their app is that they will cycle the program. For example: if you are using a sleep program, you can set it for 8 hours and it will offer you frequencies to take you through the various sleep stages. You must wear headphones with this app for maximal benefit. Available on Apple devices only.
- AmbiScience – The other app is called AmbiScience and also developed for a variety of situations (sleep, meditation, etc.) and very easy to use, you can set timers, background music, volume, etc. This app has some programs that do not require headphones which is a plus. Available for the Apple and Android devices.
Please use reasonable caution when using these apps – do not use while driving, or if you are sensitive to brain seizures, etc. Also, I recommend that you start with lower volume and increase slowly over time if you wish. These apps can give your brain a workout and starting out with a louder volume may leave you feeling a bit groggy in the morning. I say that from personal experience 😉
I want to transition to more formal or traditional meditation practices (versus mindfulness which is centered on some aspect of body awareness). In this post, I will cover the “basics” of meditation and in the next post I will talk about more advanced practices.
- Insight Timer – there’s an app for that! – Indeed, my favorite meditation app is Insight Timer. You can meditate with people around the world at any time. It can be helpful to meditate and connect with others and the social aspect can be like Facebook. I have “friends” around the world that I meditate with, and it can track your statistics. There are free and paid versions for Apple and Android. They also have guided meditations available, which are very popular and easy to use.
- Guided Meditation – this is probably one of the easiest paths to meditation. Guided meditations can last as little as 5 minutes to upwards of 60 minutes. Someone’s voice is walking you through some form of guided imagery which may have some mindfulness aspects, such as guiding you through a whole body relaxation. Try to sample the meditation and listen to the voice. Notice how you feel in listening – some voices you may perceive as calm and smoothing, and others may be less so. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Energy Center Clearing by Edwin Harkness Spina – this meditation will help clear your energy field
- YouTube has many meditations available, such as these two by Jason Stephenson: Back to Basics Guided Meditation: For Beginner and Returning Meditation Users and A Meditation for Stress Relief and Anxiety: Walk Along the Beach Guided Meditation Visualization
- Music/Sound – many people use music as background to encourage an alpha or theta state.
- Search for “spa” music, Reiki music, classical music, new age or music for healing, depending upon your taste in music. Click on the play button to sample if possible. You may already have some music in your library to use.
- If you have a subscription to Amazon Prime, you have access to a lot of free music. This is a great way to sample what works best for you. For example, I listen to the “Relaxing New Age” playlist. Spotify, Pandora and other online music sources are great to try, too.
- Consider using music that has been tuned to 432 Hz, which are called Solfeggio frequencies. Some believe these tones are in tune with the natural harmonics of the Earth.  Many are set to music with the Solfeggio tones in the background. Each frequency is tuned for different suggested uses
- You may also check out shamanic journey drumming, either use as background music or look for a local a drumming circle. The steady beat will entrain you into a meditative state (alpha or theta)
- Crystal bowl meditations have also become very popular. There are different forms of bowls, and often the experience is dependent upon the person who is playing the bowls: some people carry higher vibrations, some are more grounded. Try a few to see what works best for you. An alternative is Tibetan bowls – either in person or a recording. Each person is different and it depends upon your unique energetic template as to how you will react and benefit from the meditation.
- Meditate in Groups – take a meditation class or join a local meditation group. Meetup.com is a great source to research local places
- Prayer – prayer is a form of meditation. Shifting your perspective on what is meditation may give you a different perspective.
- Find a Place That Supports Higher Vibration – look for a local church, retreat center or other place where people congregate and pray/meditate. Churches in particular have structures that intensify and promote a shift into higher vibration. Domes are especially good for this. For example, St Catharine Church in Spring Lake NJ has a dome in the center of the church. If you walk down the aisle slowly, you can feel the shift in energy and intensity when you are under the dome versus when you are not. This is why there are many domes over the altars of churches. Also, Lynn McTaggert in the book “The Intention Experiment” cites research that suggests that the physical structure of churches, etc. literally absorb the vibration of the people within. So when you walk into a place like this, you are walking into the energy of thousands of people who have spent time there in a state of high vibration.
These are suggestions to help support your new habits. If you were starting a running program, you would probably buy new shoes and some jogging clothes to make it easier. These suggestions I offer are in the same spirit: ways that you can make the path smoother and generate some early positive results for yourself. Research has shown that you can reap benefits in as little as eight weeks with regular practice.
In the next post, we will cover more advanced practices. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the journey!
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